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Tracks to Check Out: "O.N.I.F.C."

by Photo of Louis Santiago

Wiz’s sophomore albums is a return to the sound that garnered him so much buzz but are the songs just as good?

Tracks to Check Out:

In this article…

Instead of writing a "the good, the bad and the ugly" review of Wiz Khalifa's album O.N.I.F.C., I am going to pick out several tracks and discuss why they work and what I like about them. Before I do this I would like to preface the review with what I feel should be said before any judgment is passed.

Wiz Khalifa holds a unique position in the current picture that is rap music. The Pittsburgh rapper is not well known for his lyrical ability, but he does bring his own style to every track. I always find it difficult to explain to a hardcore rap fans why he's such a good artist. In their minds you need to have meaningful topics to talk about and you need to be clever with your lyrics.

In Wiz's case he doesn't need to have all these things to be a good rapper. Just like movies and television have different genres of shows, so to does rap music. There are rappers like Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole who can be looked at like the Breaking Bad and Mad Men of T.V. On the other side of the spectrum you have artists like French Montana and Gucci Mane, who are like the reality T.V. shows of the rap game. These genres and artists are drastically different but they each have a unique quality about them.

When thinking about Wiz's genre it's all about feelings. Now when I say feelings I'm not talking about being sad, depressed or vulnerable, I mean the vibe that the music delivers. When listening to a song there's a certain mindset to keep in mind so the music is enjoyable. Admittedly, Wiz's music does sound much better when under the influence and I think that this is why and how he's so popular. 

Take a look back at some of the popular music acts in all the genres of music. It's my theory that in music there has always been artists that made music to get high to. The songs are not always intellectually appealing to fans of the art form, but there's just something about the music that makes it entertaining. The drugs act as a key of sorts to unlock ones mind to think about the music in a certain way. Look back at artist like the Beatles, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix. All of these musicians made music that was good in their own respect, but when uninhibited they sounded totally different and had a deep feel to them. For rap fans a more contemporary example of this is Snoop Dogg.

Snoop has never been like his fellow rappers of the time. The truth is he's never had to be because he fits into a different lane then they do. While most west coast rap was about the gang culture and violence, not many could deal with the subjects like Snoop did. His lyrics were not complicated and overly brutal, they were smooth and he found just the right beats to make his music sound and feel amazing to listeners. 

In my eyes Wiz's is that exact artist in today's musical landscape. His style separates him from the pack of other rappers. He never claims to be a lyrical rapper he's just interested in developing his sound. It's this exploration that makes him a good musician. Rather than talk about the lyrical content too much we are going to talk about other elements that make the songs appealing. With all that said lets discuss O.N.I.F.C.

The first track that I enjoyed was "Bluffin." The Drumma Boy produced track starts out with these 90's-esque electric piano chords that fans have come to enjoy from Wiz, leading into a bongo break down that has an interesting fast pace. The combination mixed with heavy bass creates a great beat for Wiz to talk about how much money, cars, etc. he has. The repetitive hook is simple yet infectious. Think of a 90's Jamie Foxx song; there is a certain element of style to the track. Wiz's flow on the song has a bounce element to it; he understands exactly what pace he should deliver his lines in and he finds a home in the groove of the song. Towards the end of the each verse he speeds his flow up just to give you a different feel and show that beats can have more than one pocket. This is something that Wiz has mastered and it's tracks like these that show how far he has developed as an artist. Listen to "Bluffin" below. 

    

The next track is by far the most unique song of the album. "Fall Asleep" is unlike any song you have ever heard from Wiz. The track starts out with a creepy sample of a young girl singing the words "Fall Asleep." The vibe is like a lullaby you would hear in a horror movie. Underneath this are digital bleeps and bloops that are the driving force of the song. Instead of having drums dictate the flow of the song, Wiz takes a bold gamble and uses these computer-like sound effects to rap over. The song is minimalist in terms of instruments used. I believe most of this songs was constructed on an MPC. The only time where there are any rap elements is the bass drum that appears in calculated moments of each verse and the hook. To me this song epitomizes why Wiz is such a good artist. Many rappers would be unable to gamble on a song such as this. With the focus on vibe and tone and not on lyrics, Wiz can create a distinct soundscape that makes this song attention grabbing. Listen to "Fall Asleep"  Below.     

This next track sees worlds collide as Wiz's sound mixes with the production of Pharrell. "Rise Above" begins with some sort of bongo type drum and looped sound bite of what sounds like Pharrell. There is also what sounds like a woman singing a high pitch note in the background. It might be a high pitch electronic sample, but it's difficult to decipher. The verses are driven by the classic Neptune's electric piano sound mixed with high hats and the bongo drums. The hook has an interesting vibe that features Wiz singing about how he became successful and is unaffected by the hate that surrounds him. What makes this track even more interesting is not only does Pharrell supply the beat, but he also laid down a verse. In the song he admits that Wiz smoked so much in the studio that he caught contact. This indirect high must have given him the confidence to hop on the song and provide the track with a rare Pharrell feature. His verse leaves you begging for more but as it stands it was a nice addition to the song. Tuki Carter, Wiz's tattoo and Taylor Gang artist, is also on the song. His verse is a welcome switch from to the flows that Wiz and Pharrell bring. Even Wiz's wife-to-be, Amber Rose, spits a couple bars on this song. Rose sounds comfortable and that translates into an impressive addition to this already great track. Listen to "Rise Above" below. 

  

When thinking about the themes of a typical Wiz track the last you think of is a cut track. For those that don't know what a cut track, it is a song in which you can have intimate "relations" to. Most people listen to Al Green or Teddy Pendergrass, but Wiz's "Up In It" proves that it is a more than capable substitute in one's late night playlist. The song begins with a harmony of girls singing that has been auto tuned and altered slightly. The beat drops and the slow beat caters to the vibe and the lyrics of the track. The one sound that grabs your ear is the guitar that was so popular in 90's video games. As a point of reference think of some of the sounds you would here in a typical level of Sonic the Hedgehog. Wiz shows that as much as he talks about weed and money, he also has the ability to talk to the ladies. The piano that dances in the background of the track fits in a way that surprises you and fits perfectly underneath the drums of the song. Wiz's flows on each verse show once again how he can alter his style and take advantage of every nuance of the beat. Listen to "Up In It" below. 

 

The final song I'm going to talk about is my favorite song of the album. "No Limit" is a very spacey record that transcends rap music. While Nice Rec, will.i.am, and I.D. Labs all produced the song, each person gives their personal touch without disrupting the vibe of the track.  While Wiz raps on the song, it has such a deeper feel to it. It  satisfies  the ear to a degree that is uncommon  in most hip-hop music. The song launches with an  extraterrestrial sound followed but a snare drums and bells that have a marching quality to them. This blends into the hook, which boast, "We just go, we don't know no limit." 

I believe that this is the perfect statement to define Wiz as an artist. He's not always concerned about what other people think he just does what he enjoys and the music reflects this. This outlook is why we get amazing songs such as this. The song has a loose structure with the hook leaking into each verse as Wiz's flow bounces over the I.D.Labs production. At around the four- minute mark of the song the music fades away and the space like sounds take over the track. This vibe was  definitely  made for the smokers and creates a mood that I believe only Wiz can orchestrate. The music returns with a piano, bass guitar and the low echo of Wiz singing "Come On" in the background. The tempo slowly builds and leads us into what sounds like a  completely  different song. In this part the drums take center stage and dictate the flow that Wiz raps with. The melody, the pocket and Wiz's use of repetition is perfect for this beat. The one section that stands out to me surprisingly a lyrical section where Wiz's catchy flow and bending of  syllables  makes the lines sound so impressive. The section reads as follows: 

"And on and on, and on and on
Never smoked weed that was quite this strong
Never took a flight this long
Never drank champaign in Italy
Never spent a night in Rome
But it's funny cause those are the exact same things
That helped me write this song
Caught up livin' a life where tryin' to do all the right things feels wrong
So I keep rollin' and lightin' up and prayin' to God that we live long"

It's tracks like these that keep me enamored with Wiz. In my mind no other rapper aside from Kid Cudi would have this much imagination and have this much fun with a track like this. Listen to "No Limit" below.

As a full project O.N.I.F.C. is a step in the right direction. Wiz is still growing as an artist so it is unfair to expect perfection from him. Some songs I could do without, but I understand why they made the album. If he were to substitute some of those songs with tracks from Taylor Allderdice or Cabin Fever 2 I think we would be talking about the album in a much different light. 

Now that I have said my piece, let yourself be the judge. You can buy Wiz Khalifa's album O.N.I.F.C. in stores or on iTunes. Wiz is also on the "2050 Tour" with the rest of Taylor Gang. Let CHARGED.fm get you the best seats for Wiz's tour.


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